Models of Faith in a Hostile Society

james 1:2 trialsThere is no single correct way for how God’s people should respond to a culture hostile to faith. In the Old Testament, God called the Israelites to develop their own society. He designed laws to keep out pagan influences. But He sent New Testament followers into the world to impact unbelieving cultures.

As we reflect on our relationship to societies that are hostile to Christian faith, it helps to consider Old Testament figures who found ways to honor God even after they were plucked from safety and placed in unfriendly circumstances.

Example 1: Joseph

His story is found in Genesis 37-47

  • Sold as a slave and taken to Egypt but maintained his godly character despite recurring setbacks.
  • A model of integrity both in adversity and prosperity

Example 2: Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego

Their story is found in Daniel 1-6

  • Taken to Babylon as prisoners of war and trained for service in a pagan government.
  • Models of integrity and commitment to the Lord while serving unbelievers.

Example 3: Nehemiah

His story is found in Nehemiah 1-6

  • A strategically placed official in the Persian court who was allowed to rebuild Jerusalem’s wall.
  • A model of leveraging position to accomplish God’s purposes while overcoming opposition.

Example 4: Esther and Mordecai

This story is called the book of Esther

  • Members of an ethnic minority who found themselves in a position to influence a godless king.
  • Models of acting courageously and wisely in order to withstand evil.

The people in these examples had several things in common:

  1. They were all laypeople. They were not among the priests or Levites, so they had no vocational reasons for exercising faith in their day-to-day work. Yet they carried out God’s purposes faithfully.
  2. They were all believers living in foreign lands. These followers of God did a better job of obeying the Lord in antagonistic societies than their contemporaries did back in a Judean society that had been formed around a covenant with God.
  3. They all remained committed to God. The pressures of their surrounding cultures deepened their spiritual commitments. They were aware of a larger purpose beyond their immediate circumstances, which enabled them to act wisely. While others surrendered to their culture, these followers of God held on to their fundamental convictions.

James 1:22 NKJV

Models of Faith In a Hostile Society – Study Questions*

1. Is there a Biblical model for dealing with trials that impact us?
Read James 1:2-4, James 1:12, Hebrews 10:34, Hebrews 12:11, Isaiah 51:7

2. But what if the trial was not as a result of something you did, but simply who you are?
Read Matthew 5:10-12, Isaiah 66:5

3. What must we keep in mind when persecution does come?
Read: John 15:18-25, 1 John 3:13-15, 1Peter 4;12-19

4. What should we do to prepare for coming trials?
Read 1 Peter 3:13-22

5. Is there ever an appropriate time to take a stand against those who would persecute us?
Acts 5:21-31

6. How do we find the strength to stand like Joseph, Daniel, Shadrach, Mechach, Abed-Nego, Nehemiah, Esther and Mordecai?
Romans 8:18-39

Continue to part 2 of this study, Bowing to God Alone

This bible study is excerpted with permission from The Modern Life Study Bible. Using historical context and fresh insights backed by biblical scholars, The Modern Life Study Bible explores the timeless truths that connect the people and stories of the Bible to the opportunities and demands we face today. God is at work in our world, inviting us to experience His presence. Learn more…

* Study questions prepared by Fred Bittner, FaithGateway Bible Study Curator

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Fred Bittner

Fred has a passion for small group Bible studies. His experience includes 20 years in ministry and 16 years in public education. He started and led a singles ministry that included several hundred believers, and helped establish a small group ministry in a growing church. He has seven books in print. His latest book, The Art of Worship is a great primer for new believers. Visit his website at

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